Harvey Weinstein and Me
by Riem Higazi
When I was in my early twenties, a male relative gave a huge party and I helped out by serving guests drinks and food.
I was carrying a tray of glasses full of champagne with both my hands and that was the opportunity a male guest, about thirty years older than me, took.
He first slapped my bum while my back was turned to him and when I turned my head around to see who had done that, he delighted in my angry facial expression and full-on fondled my bum under my dirndl, and then gave it a rather painful squeeze.
The whole thing lasted about seven seconds but just thinking about this, a good twenty years later, I am still enraged, I can still feel the helplessness I felt then.
I was pissed at the fact that my body was regarded as a public domain, I was pissed that the humiliation peaked with the loud laughter my hurried flight from him evoked, I was pissed that my male relative told me not to be so precocious when I asked him to do something about his guest and I was pissed that I didn’t know what to do about it except to tell the guest to go fuck himself which of course delighted him even further.
I was pissed that the hierarchy of power was set so that I was nothing and an older male was everything.
When I lived in London, I worked for a children’s television production company. This was the late 90’s, early 2000’s.
I honestly have never witnessed so much misogyny and sexual harassment at a workplace in my life. The company was very successful and had massive parties and company events and that’s where the sexual harassment of the female staff was at its most prevalent and open and what really got to me is that many women just „took it on the chin“ as they say in England. Many female colleagues regarded sitting on laps or enduring creepy advances was just part and parcel of working at the company. And even more yuck for me--many women willingly participated so as to climb the corporate ladder or at least attempt to.
The continuously unfolding Harvey Weinstein story has brought up these memories and a few more too painful and personal to mention.
It’s brought up the anger too.
What I find particularly infuriating is the stance benefactors of Weinstein’s power and money have declared. The „Oh! I didn’t know!“ defence coming from the Obamas, Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep. They took their time with their denouncements, waiting to see if they really had to acknowledge the movie mogul they described as „God“ at awards ceremonies, the dude whose money they accepted in political campaign donations, was a serial sexual harasser (which he has admitted) and alleged rapist (which he has not).
I live in Vienna’s fourth district, have zero to do with Hollywood, and even I’ve known Harvey Weinstein was a sexual harasser for at least the past twenty years. The ‚open secret‘ of his criminal behaviour was easy to unveil if you read between the lines of magazines like Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone, Seth MacFarlane’s remark as Oscar host in 2013 or if you had any interest in popular culture benchmark television shows like Tina Fey’s „30 Rock“.
I find it disingenuous that close friends of Weinstein’s such as Meryl Streep could claim to not have known anything. I can’t imagine Streep being that naïve. I’m inclined to think Streep preferred to just ignore it and in turn, further perpetuate the status of women as mere playthings in Hollywood, completely contrary to her public declarations championing women’s rights. I find it especially disingenuous that Streep has claimed she didn’t know AND the media didn’t know. That made me not LOL but instead a very loud ’Geh bitte!’ emerged from my lips upon discovering she had made that ridiculous statement.
Since the beginning of Hollywood, men such as Weinstein have been using their power and influence over young actors and actresses to be disgusting creeps at best, criminal sexual predators and even killers at worst.
Take for example the 1921 Fatty Arbuckle scandal involving Hollywood’s first million dollar star (Fatty Arbuckle, a 120 kg comedian), a young struggling actress (a petite Virginia Rappe), a boozy party, an alleged rape but a proven ruptured bladder that lead to Ms Rappe’s death.
I really wonder if the massive downfall of Harvey Weinstein will change the culture of silence with regards to sexual abuse in Hollywood. If not, what will it take for the abuse of power to stop? Is that too idealistic a thing to try to achieve? And here’s a big question: how does a continued silence on sex abuse in Hollywood influence society in general?
Those were some of the questions I put to the author of „Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault in Popular Culture“, Laura Finley.
You can check out her answers here:
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Finally - this entire week while this whole Weinstein story continued to get more and more gross, I’ve had a song I had forgotten about for a long time going on a loop in my head. Especially because the lyrics go beyond the nasty side of Hollywood and into all of pussy-grabbin’ America.
Hollywood infected your brain
You wanted kissing in the rain
Oh oh, I’m living in a movie scene
Puking American dreams
Oh oh, I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America
I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America
Publiziert am 13.10.2017